In the Czech Republic where wearing masks has become obligatory in public spaces, the zeal for the new practice is such that when a group of nudists gathered at a lake during last weekend’s unusually warm weather, police ordered them to cover up—their mouths.
“Citizens can be without clothes in places where this is allowed, but they must have their mouths covered,” police spokeswoman Marketa Janovska told the Police Weekly newspaper.
Adherence to mask wearing is also being rigorously enforced elsewhere in the region.
Austria is preparing to join neighboring states in turning to mask wearing as a further weapon to fight the coronavirus, presenting citizens under lockdown with another challenge to cultural norms due to the pandemic.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz had said he wanted larger supermarkets to start providing shoppers with masks.
The measure will only come into full force on Monday. Nonetheless, some Austrians have taken to the new rule with gusto.
“We have to do all we can to slow down infections and lots of people say that wearing a mask helps, so I think it’s right,” 42-year-old Vienna resident Stephan Hofmann told AFP – through a mask.
But he admits that “you have to learn to use it, how to put it on and take it off.”
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has begun sporting one in public but is still struggling to adapt, having to wear his only over his mouth and not his nose.
“My head is too big for this mask! It is too small for my muzzle,” he exclaimed during one appearance on Monday.
Announcing the measure in Austria on Monday, Kurz was at pains to emphasize that face masks would be difficult for some Austrians to get used to.
“I know that masks are alien to our culture and that this will be a big adjustment,” he said.
Medical anthropologist Christos Lynteris from Scotland’s St Andrew’s University says that the “traumatic” nature of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2003 helped normalize mask wearing in parts of East Asia.
In Hong Kong and elsewhere in the Asian region, face masks became “everyday objects… playful, personalized – it’s like any other accessory,” according to Lynteris.
As one Slovenian shopper put it to AFP: “The situation requires measures which were once unimaginable.”
“Life will be different from now on but we will get used to it,” mother-of-two Maja Zivec said.